Paris hosted a massive centennial ceremony Sunday to mark the armistice of World War I. Four years earlier, a preceding ceremony had taken to commemorate the outbreak of the war. The celebration is certainly drawing much attention, but it is far from a fuss. After all, it behooves us to look back at the tragic chapter of history accountable for more than 10 million casualties.
The beginning of the 20th century was full of hopes and expectations for mankind. The advancement of science, reason, and democracy seemed to guarantee to bring about unprecedented prosperity and peace for all of us. In less than two decades, however, the citizens of rich countries saw themselves struggling in a muddy trench. A whistle would be blown to order an all-out rush, which would be followed by a baptism of the bullets from machine guns. It only took five minutes for an entire company to perish.
More tragic is the fact that mankind has not learned any lesson from those horrid memories. First provoking the Russian revolution, World War I established the framework of cold war era, with the socialist forces achieving rapid growth from a number of countries. Those who survived prepared for their next war for revenge, and those who opposed the war did not realize that their opposition was sowing seeds of another contention. Tragedy was a hotbed feeding hatred and collectivism of societies and nations.
It is ironical that all the diplomatic and policy efforts designed to prevent the tragic wars invariably served as a direct cause of them. The crowning lesson of the first World War was that tragedy repeats itself when we forget the lessons of history. Probably that is why the heads of powerful economies attended the Paris ceremony to mark the end of the first world war.
Here is an even more important lesson to be learned. Humans are bound to forget the lessons from history. This is evidenced by the chaos and woes witnessed across Europe and the conflicts and wrath that we face in South Korea. Perhaps, one hundred years are long enough to forget the lesson forged by the blood of 10 million people. I sincerely hope that the centennial ceremony in Paris was not the last desperate attempt to stop ourselves relapsing into fatal oblivion.